TAMPA — After only six games this season, Brent Grimes wanted to quit football and give the remainder of his $7 million salary back to the Bucs.
That's what his wife, Miko, was loudly making clear to one of his agents on the other end of the phone in the team hotel at the Westin in Cincinnati just hours before the Bucs were to play the Bengals on Oct. 28.
"He wants to quit and give the money back,'' Miko said.
That conversation was also related during his wife's recent podcast, IHeartMiko, in which Grimes spent more than 45 minutes airing a laundry list of complaints about the Bucs coaching staff, from defensive coordinator Mike Smith insisting on playing man to man coverage to the way defensive backs coach Jon Hoke wanted him to play the run.
As many as seven teams, including the Eagles, wanted to trade for Grimes at the deadline in October but general manager Jason Licht refused to deal him because it would look as if they were giving up on the season, Grimes was told by his agent.
"They said no, allegedly because if they traded you, it would look like they gave up on the season," Miko said on the podcast.
"Why didn't you demand a trade?
"It was like … I was just done with it," Grimes said. "I feel like all teams are the same."
At 35, Grimes signed a one-year contract in March as a free agent with a base salary of $7 million and $1 million in incentives.
He missed the first two games with an injury but became discouraged by his assignment in Week 3 against the Steelers.
Grimes said it was "disrespectful" that Bucs coaches asked him to shadow the Steelers' Antonio Brown and other top receivers because he was only making $7 million when cover corners make $12 to $14 million per year.
"That's not right," Grimes said. "That's disrespectful and it (expletive) up my whole vibe for the whole year, to be completely honest. Because it's just disrespectful. I just felt disrespected."
In that game, Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster beat Grimes for a 44-yard gain and Brown had a 27-yard touchdown reception.
Grimes also said he was benched in the second half of a 48-10 loss at Chicago because he was on his cellphone at halftime.
"It's (expletive) 2019,'' Grimes said. "Phones are everywhere, bruh. That's ridiculous.''
Grimes also was benched briefly against Dallas after using the technique he said Hoke taught on a running play that resulted in a big gain by Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
"I got pulled out of that game for that play," Grimes said. "When they put the other guy in, because that's what they coached, the same thing happened.
"I was done."
Miko said she thought her husband would follow the lead of former Bills cornerback Vontae Davis, who quit at halftime of a game against the Chargers.
"And I was talking you out of it," she said.
Grimes said he told the Bucs he didn't want to play in the season finale against the Falcons.
"You told the coaches you're not playing Sunday," Miko said.
Grimes said Hoke "apologized."
"I said if you're going to retire, if it's going to be the last game, just play," Miko said. "You said, '(Expletive) that.' "
Grimes did play and played well in a 34-32 loss to Atlanta. He had five tackles and a season-high three passes defensed. He finished the year with 48 tackles, six passes defensed and no interceptions in 13 games.
But those details provided by Grimes and Miko illustrate what has been wrong with the culture of the Bucs.
Smith was fired after five games with the Bucs defense allowing more than 34 points per game. It was Smith who pushed for Grimes to join the Bucs three years ago and pushed for him to return in 2018.
It was clear Grimes' heart wasn't into playing football this season. While he wasn't tested much by opposing quarterbacks who preferred to attack rookies such as Carlton Davis or M.J. Stewart, Grimes may have been one of those players Jason Pierre-Paul was referring to when he said, "I think we've got a lot of guys who just don't keep it real, man."
"This year was just annoying. From the start,'' Grimes said. "This year? Yeah, it just went bad early and I just had to deal with it all year and it was just this (stuff) is whack, all year.''
Grimes had a problem from the start that Smith wouldn't play zone coverage. "He thought everybody matched everything and I feel like you can play zones, I really do," Grimes said.
"It's dumb. It's like treating everyone else like they're dumb. But I feel like if you've got dumb players then you need to get smarter players."
That's not the point. If a player is asked to hold for place kicks, and he's under contract, he should be expected to help the team any way possible.
There was a stunning lack of accountability on this football team, from the front office to the coaching staff and from the coaching staff to the players.
Grimes may be right about one thing.
"The NFL is just fear-based," he said. "And it's kind of depressing to me. Like everybody is scared to lose their job. Scared, and nobody's playing. It's just scary. The whole NFL is scary."
A coach is scared to take their most experienced corner off the field. The front office is scared what the locker room or fan base will do if they trade a starting cornerback. The owners may be scared what a trade would signal to season ticket holders. Young teammates are scared to question a Pro Bowl talent.
So everybody just kept running Grimes back onto the field.
It wasn't really dissimilar to what the Bucs endured with receiver DeSean Jackson.
The danger is that these vets have a lot of credibility among young players. The trickle-down effect is part of the problem.
If you're a prospective head coach interviewing for the Bucs job and you know this sort of thing was tolerated by the organization, does that make this job more or less attractive?
Grimes won't play for the Bucs again. He may not play in the NFL again.
But the Bucs are going to change more than the head coach every two or three years if they want to win.